In this day and age, there’s no denying the internet. And frankly, you’d be a fool to. It’s an amazing tool at every business owner’s disposal. Used correctly it can bring you customers in their thousands. So regardless of your business type or service – whether you offer air conditioning services or charity web design – you need a website.
The importance of an online presence for companies of all sizes and descriptions is ever-increasing. And yet, according to a recent report, many smaller businesses are not adjusting their strategy accordingly. An enormous 60% of small businesses in the UK still have absolutely no online presence.
Why is this important? Does it really matter?
Yes! Every last person in the western world is spending more and more of their time online. To this end, small business owners that view their businesses as totally offline and opt to pursue traditional means only to promote themselves, are adopting a very risky strategy.
There are many service businesses that do ultimately rely on their ability to build offline relationships, but even these companies need to be found by new customers in order to build those relationships – and the web has a major role to play in this. So now matter how established you think your business may be offline – you still need at least the basics of online set up.
If you are a small company, you probably don’t have a big budget to invest in a complicated online strategy. But there are still some simple changes you can make to start reaping the rewards of the World Wide Web.
1. Be Available
The way to get the best from the web is to make your business as accessible as it can be. People are online 24/7 and they need to be able to interact with you in a way that is easy for them. This doesn’t mean you need to be online to respond to their inquiries 24 hours a day, but it does mean you need to put the right measures in place. You need to at the very least have a straightforward, professional looking website that has easy to find and appropriate information about your services. If you want to take it to a more advanced level you could even put in place a tool that allows customers to book appointments with you – essentially giving you a 24/7 receptionist.
2. Think Local First
Just because you’ve decided to utilize online tools, doesn’t mean you’re trying to go national. In fact it can be quite the opposite. Using the web can be an extremely successful route to building relationships with local people – which is usually critical to the success of small businesses. You can use local listing sites, directories and networking groups. You can also search for other local businesses to build partnerships with. And remember that just as you want to search for companies locally, you also want other people to be able to find you. Your website needs to be optimized for local search terms. If you can’t afford to have somebody take care of your search engine optimization (SEO) for you, you could attend an SEO training course and learn how to do it yourself. Once you’ve used the web to make connections with people, you can then turn that connection into offline custom – loyal and regularly returning customers.
3. Think Multi-channel – but Prioritize
One of the first things you need to consider is whereabouts online your business will be best seen. As a small business you won’t have the time or money to have every area covered, so you need to think about where your potential customers will be spending most of their time and focus on those channels. For example, many small businesses find great success using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as most people use them frequently. You can run paid adverts to direct traffic to your company website or simply create your own business page and start generating a local database.
4. Turn your Loyal Customers into Advocates
And finally, consider clever ways to get your loyal customers to do your internet marketing for you. Social media has changed the way people shop. If you want recommendations for a local service, you usually pop up a status or send out a tweet asking for them. A business can be made or broken in seconds. Loyal and happy customers will naturally recommend you anyway, but there are ways to encourage them to do it more. Have a persistent presence on social media and use methods like running competitions for your followers. Offer them incentives for sharing your pages. Or you could even consider running an affiliate programme. The best thing about social media is that many of the services you can capitalize on are completely free!
In conclusion, maximum impact doesn’t always mean maximum budget when it comes to the World Wide Web. It’s entirely about being pertinent, constant and available online. Keep those three things at the forefront of your mind and you’ll well on your way to online success. Use the web to create a smooth, professional image of your company.